For the last few days, we have been able to hear the sound of African drums from our terrace. The rhythms change, so do the tones and the drums themselves, but they are unmistakably African. They are not at all intrusive. When they fall silent I find myself listening for them. It is not what one normally expect to hear in Lunigiana, but that is what is so wonderful about the region. The unexpected. And Mama Africa is currently in town.
If you were in the UK, you might compare Mama Africa to one of the many music festivals that take place in the summer, and in a way it is. But it is also much more. There are workshops and debates, classes, shows and concerts, and sharing of cultures. Embedded in the festival are important values. Not only a desire to share African music, dancing and culture, but also to support values such as anti-racism and social equality, fair trade, recycling, sustainability and respect for their host town and the region.
Mama Africa is slanted to West African culture, particularly the ex-French colonies, which means there is a large French presence at the event. It is run on a not-for-profit basis, is aimed primarily at young people and is run by young volunteers. Nevertheless, all ages are welcome and there are special events for children. Participants describe it as the best event of its type in Europe.
The event is well supported by the local community, local charities and businesses. For the last two years, Mama Africa has been held in Filetto, near Villafranca in Lunigiana, where has its own village. There are workshops, conferences and concerts, as well as a camping site restaurant, and market area. Larger concerts are also held in the old medieval village of Filetto. The final concert in 2014 will be attended by Zucchero, Lunigiana’s own superstar.
I look forward to their return next year – with the exception of having to watch Mr Ciao’s interpretation of African dance on the terrace.
Photos courtesy of Mama Africa
Mama Africa appeared on Ciao Lunigiana on 31 July 2014.